Disclaimer: I am not by any means suggesting that all, or even the majority of Christians behave the way the ones I was talking to did. I'm arguing against a specific claim made by some Christians, not against Christianity itself or Christians in general. I try to take great care not to generalise about Christians or anyone else for that matter, so please let me know if I do. Please don't bother reviewing and saying 'no one I know would say that' as if that was any sort of argument.

Demon Toasties From Heck

A number of times, while debating with people about religion on this site and elsewhere, I have come across the idea 'if you're not with us, you're against us', made by angry Christians who are offended at symbols of other faiths, or what they perceive to be symbols of other faiths. They seem to believe that anything which is not Christian is anti-Christian. I disagree. Why? Because of cheese. Bear with me and I will explain.

I like to wear a silver ankh on a chain around my neck. I have been berated by Christians for wearing what they call a 'Satanic' symbol, apparently because of its resemblance to a Christian Cross (I suppose the logic is that it is a cross which has somehow been broken or altered, as some Christians claim the peace sign is)*. The ankh looks like a cross with a loop instead of a rod above the arms It is an Ancient Egyptian symbol meaning 'life', and is sometimes known as the 'key of life'. It is believed to have been in use as early as 3000 BCE.

'The Loop of the Anhk also represent the feminine discipline or the (Womb), while the elongated section represent the masculine discipline or the (Penis). These two sacred units then come together and form life.'**

This symbol is popular among modern Goths, and in popular culture has almost come to be associated with the character Death in the popular comic series 'The Sandman'. I have always found it strange that it could be believed that a symbol which predates Christianity could be anti-Christian. However, it is true that the The symbol was associated with the Ancient Egyptian god Osiris and the goddess Isis, so I suppose that if you believe that all non Christian religions are a deception of the Devil then the Ankh must have been created by him. Personally, like many Christians, I don't believe that there is a literal Devil, but that's beside the point. Many people these days, myself included, see the ankh as a symbol of a principle ie. life unending. If the wearer does not associate it with the Ancient Egyptian gods then surely they do not sin by wearing it since they aren't worshipping any idols in doing so. The symbol itself is nothing, just a mark, like the random scratches on the surface of my desk. Whatever meaning a symbol has is what we humans give to it. The Ancient Egyptians gave it one meaning. Most modern wearers of the ankh give it another, or wear it for purely aesthetic reasons, devoid of meaning. It has even over the years been used by Christian sects. Wearing an ankh is not 'anti-Christian'. It simply has nothing to do with Christianity.

For the same reason, surely it cannot be sinful to burn incense, not to propitiate gods or goddesses or ward off evil but purely because you like the smell (I always thought it was particularly odd when Christian friends told me off for that when incense is also used in many Christian churches for ritual purposes#), or to read books which mention other gods, demons etc. purely for the entertainment value. And yet many Christians denounce the Harry Potter books for promoting 'Satanism' or get angry at statues of Buddha displayed in shops.***

How can a symbol or an object be innately evil? Supposing I were to create a religion based around cheese. Since it is a religion other than Christianity it is therefore a creation of Satan (who presumably guided me in making it up). Suppose that I gain many followers, and it becomes an official religion in many countries, so there are Churches of Cheese in all major cities, Cheese Chaplains in armies, Cheese sales go through the roof. Since many people now worship cheese, and worshipping idols other than God is a sin, does cheese itself become sinful? Do good Christians now have to abstain from having a nice cheddar toastie because of my actions? Is it retroactively sinful? Was the existence of cheese for a couple of thousand years before I made up this religion an example of clever forward thinking on the part of the Devil? Of course not. Cheese isn't sinful. *Worshipping* cheese might be, if you believe in sin, but that's not the same thing. Objects and symbols don't have meaning or value on their own. It's up to us to make of them what we will.

Bibliography

Spaces have been included to stop fictionpress' formatting from taking out the links. * See www . :/ en. wikipedia wiki/Peace_ symbol

** Info about the ankh www. swagga.

The Tattoo Encyclopedia, Green, Terisa, Simon and Schuster Inc., 2003

*** Based on a chapter of Darkhorse's work 'My Job' called 'The Buddha Incident' www. fictionpress read. php?storyid=1249374&chapter=5 (It's a good laugh, I recommend it.) and also my own experiences working in an Oxfam shop which sells many statues of Hindu gods and Buddhas.

#Using a censer or 'God bong'.